A Cloud of Outrageous Blue

Knopf. Aug. 2020. 320p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781524700416.
Gr 6 Up–After a series of misfortunes, 16-year-old Edyth gets sent off to Saint Christopher’s Priory, where she discovers an unexpected home and passion. While there, she works in the Scriptorium, eventually becoming an illuminator, where her abilities fully blossom. Not only does this headstrong young woman love to draw, she has synesthesia—colors accompany sounds and smells—making her uniquely qualified to confront the forthcoming disaster. Stamper purposefully flips between past and present events and tenses to gradually reveal Edie’s upbringing, new life, and a slice of the medieval world during the Great Plague of 1348. The historical parts are well-researched and influence aesthetic choices. Every chapter has one full-color illustration painted in a style inspired by medieval art. These, along with an array of descriptions, convey much about Edie’s unique sensory perception. This book warns against extreme reactions to plague and death. It carefully avoids placing blame on social structures or religion, instead pointing to fear and mob mentality. While there is a miraculous element, the solution ultimately comes from the strength and faith of Edie and her bonds with others. Stamper’s art style depicts characters’ skin as the same white as the page, and Edyth is drawn with long black hair.
VERDICT A timely, historically inspired work about women’s roles and surviving the Great Plague that teens can use as a comparison to their own predicaments.

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